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Anime: Read or Die
aka: Reador Die
"Please give me back my book!"

Read or Die is a three-episode OVA about the adventures of Yomiko Readman — an eccentric (and very cute) bibliomaniac, part-time substitute teacher, and super-powered agent for the British Library's secret intelligence division. Yomiko (code-named "The Paper" by the British Library) possesses what can best be called elemental paper powers, which allows her to manipulate paper in practically every way thinkable (e.g. she can stop bullets by holding a notecard in their path). She also has an insatiable addiction to reading, and she feeds it by spending thousands of dollars a week on books. Yomiko is an odd combination of giggling innocent schoolgirl-ish woman (one gets the distinct impression most of the time that her mental age and, er, general level of life experience are those of a twelve-year-old) and stone cold killer.

Set in an alternate late 21st-century Earth with rare and mostly hidden superhumans, Read or Die tells of Yomiko's efforts along with a pair of compatriots to oppose a mysterious group of supervillains calling themselves "I-jin" ("Geniuses"). Strangely resembling notable figures from history, the I-jin want (among other things) a book once owned by Beethoven that Yomiko has recently purchased, within which lies the key to an evil plan with world-wide consequences. The result is a globe-trotting rollercoaster ride of action, friendship, betrayal, wild plot twists, and a small leavening of sly humor. Do not miss the highlight of the first episode, an aerial dogfight over the Manhattan skyline between a steam-powered glider and a giant paper airplane, punctuated by Yomiko's plaintive cries of "Please give me back my book!" There are other things not to miss, as well, but even mentioning them would be a spoiler!

Originally a book series and then a manga. The OVA follows some of the characterization introduced in the first manga chapters, but then drastically becomes an Alternate Continuity.

The first episode (made in the year 2000) clearly shows the World Trade Center in New York, with one scene actually set on the roof of one of the towers; those who have a sensitive disposition about the events of 9/11 may want to avoid it for that reason, but other than that, this is a must-have show. The show's superheroes are far more Western in concept than sentai — atypical for a Japanese production — but the writers and producers are clearly comfortable with the idiom and make it work very well.

Read Or Die became quite popular, which led its creators to followed the OVA up with a 26-episode TV series titled ROD the TV (ROD TV or R.O.D. the TV Series in the West), which itself became quite popular. ROD The TV has a separate page; this page is for the OVA.

A new manga series began in 2012; "R.O.D. Rehabilitation", set in a Darker and Edgier Alternate Universe, features a different Yomiko who lives in a world where the printed word has been declared obsolete and the few bibliophiles left in said world work to create a rebel city-state.

There is a (unfortunately stalled) community project to translate the original novels here.

Do Not Confuse With Mate or Die.


Read Or Die contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Yomiko and Nancy
  • Alternate Continuity: The Read Or Die novels, the Read Or Die manga, the Read Or Dream manga, the animated adaptation (consisting of this OVA and ROD the TV) and R.O.D.: Rehabilitation are all separate continuities, but borrow key concepts and characters from each other.
  • Alternate History: Britannia still rules the waves (at least in the OVA) through the efforts of the British Library, but by the time of the TV series it has decayed and fallen even further than its real-life counterpart. In the OVA Joker has the authority to give orders to the United States military and government. In the TV series the United Kingdom has been expelled from the United Nations and is forced to infiltrate Dokusensha to regain power. Yomiko Readman is amazed to learn this from Joker.
  • Anime Accent Absence: Yomiko is half-Japanese, half-British, but in the English dub of the OVA, she speaks with an American accent. This is corrected in the dub of ROD the TV, as a different voice actor provides her with an English accent. Meanwhile, her original actress is playing one of the other characters.
  • Apocalypse How: The I-jin plan to use the Suicide Symphony to wipe out the human race.
  • Archived Army: The I-jin.
  • Art Initiates Life: Ikkyu can do this in illusion form.
  • A Sinister Clue: The final episode features this trope prominently.
  • Badass Adorable: Yomiko
    • Junior in R.O.D the TV. He is capable of jumping from moving helicopters and is skillful at using guns and martial arts. And he's only about eleven. Six biologically.
  • Badass Bookworm: Also Yomiko
  • Badass Normal: Drake Anderson
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Although all of the Ijin are clones, they possess powers and abilities far beyond what the historical figures had done or accomplished. It is hard to tell who exactly the worst offender is.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: If you are dumb enough to get someone as sweet and kind-hearted as Yomiko-chan mad, you better damn well have your will written — because she is going to kill you with it.
  • Big Bad: Ikkyu
  • Blessed with Suck: Being a Paper Master goes hand in hand with a crippling case of bibliophilia; Paper Masters have serious problems with money because they both tend to forget about work in favor of reading and are almost irresistibly compelled to purchase new books whenever possible. Furthermore, Paper Masters are prone to forgetting all about essentials, like eating and/or hygiene, in favor of reading.
  • Bond One-Liner: Nancy, right before clipping Otto Lilienthal's glider:
    "Thanks for flying the friendly skies."
  • Brown Note: Beethoven's "Death Symphony", which causes anyone hearing it to commit suicide.
    • Maggie got wacko for a short period of time from reading a magic book that brought up suppressed aspects of her personality.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Yomiko is half-Japanese and half-British, while Wendy Earhart is of Indo-European descent.
  • Chekhov's Gun: See Kiss of Death, below. Additionally, the single braid left in Yomiko's hair after Nancy leaves. It is more than just a visual reminder of Yomiko's trust in Nancy; the (apparently paper) hair tie holding it in place turns out to be instrumental in her escape from Ikkyu's Drowning Pit.
  • Christmas Cake: Yomiko and Michelle are 25 years old.
  • Clothing Switch
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Wendy Earhart, Joker's assistant
  • The Cutie: Yomiko-chan
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: Ikkyu; why not have your Doomsday Device being able to activate one second from when the countdown ends?
  • Dark-Skinned Blond: Wendy
  • Deadpan Snarker: Nancy and Drake
  • Deliberate Injury Gambit: Nancy vs. Genjo Sanzo
  • Dojikko: Wendy
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set
  • Dramatic Wind
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Junior, oh so much.
  • Eagleland: Flavor Two. Drake might be a dynamic and competent character, but the President and military-at-large never seem to accomplish much of anything (except, impressively, wetting their pants three times in a three-episode series).
  • Easy Amnesia (Averted Trope): The amnesia comes about through massive head-trauma and prolonged asphyxiation, which realistically leads to brain damage and memory trauma. Her memory loss does seem a bit specific, but at least it comes about in a realistic fashion.
  • Evil Twin
  • Extraordinarily Empowered Girl: Yomiko, Nancy
  • Fanservice: Nancy
  • Foreshadowing: There's a blink-and-you-miss-it moment early on when Mr. Joker mentions that I-Jin DNA samples were stolen. One of the names shown in the background is Mata H — or, as we find out, Mata Hari.
  • Gainaxing
  • Gag Dub: There's one point where Genjo Sanzo chants a Buddhist mantra to make the ocean part in two. You can tell the English voice actor had no idea what to chant and is just muttering gibberish. He even says Klaatu Barada Nikto at one point.
  • Gratuitous German: Otto Lilienthal manages to butcher the German language quite efficiently with a piss-poor imitation of a German accent and some German words.
  • A God Am I
  • Gratuitous English: "Zah...PAAAAAYPAAAAAAHHH!!!"
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Any language except English gets slaughtered in the English dub!
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Being able to control paper sounds like the stupidest power of all time... unless you can make it hard as steel and razor sharp.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Nancy #1
  • Historical-Domain Character: The I-jin are all clones of famous people, including Beethoven and Mata Hari.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Yomiko and Nancy form an extremely strong bond over an extremely short time, and there are hints of deeper attraction that is never given time to develop within the OVA. These themes are followed up and developed in the sequel series.
  • Hot Librarian + Badass Bookworm: Yomiko. Her extreme love of books can get to be a very expensive habit (at one point, she even asks her boss for a cash advance so that she can purchase more books), but the British Library still regards her as one of the best in her field. When her voice actress was replaced for the dub, her accent suddenly became British. And yes, it made her even hotter.
    • Nancy Makuhari disguised herself as a librarian, when she first met Yomiko, getting the same book.
  • I Have the High Ground: For about two seconds in the second episode fight sequence.
  • Ill Girl: Faye loved books, but went blind and couldn't read them anymore. When she started to make paper planes out of them, Maggie came to her room and started to read books to Faye to remind her of her love for them. She gets better.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Beyond the whole Paper Master schtick, there's also some strange weapons in the manga, such as giant matches and giant triangles (the mathematical tool.)
  • Intangible Man: Nancy has the ability to phase her body through just about anything: walls, doors, machinery...flesh and blood...
  • Invisibility: The Mirror Man can render himself invisible.
  • Kiss of Death: Sort of. Nancy gives a (delayed activation) Kiss Of Unconsciousness to Yomiko.
  • Large Ham: Otto Lilienthal's English dub actor sounds like he's having a lot of fun. "YOU CANNOT KILL ZE VIND VIF BULLETS!"
  • Latex Perfection: According to the manga, it is possible for a Paper Master to do this with paper. One did it over his entire body, fooling Yomiko into thinking he was her deceased lover and successfully seduced her.
  • Lovely Angels: Yomiko and Nancy.
  • Meganekko: Yomiko Readman is widely considered the Queen of All Meganekkos.
    • Nancy Makuhari in one of her disguises.
  • Midair Repair: Yomiko manages to add a tail to her giant paper airplane in mid-flight. It helps that it is, you know, made of paper.
  • The Mole: Nancy, for the I-Jin. She is a clone of the great spy Mata Hari, after all.
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self: The Mirror Man, an agent of the British Library, has the ability to appear as someone else, but an mirror reveals his true form.
  • Monumental Battle: The first episode of the OVA ended atop the Statue Of Liberty after already battling at the White House and World Trade Centers.
  • Monumental Damage: Gennai Hiraga blows up the White House in the very first scene.
  • Multinational Team: Yomiko (Japanese/British), Drake (American), and Nancy (Dutch).
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The franchise as a whole is ... you know, an action/espionage series about books.
  • Nerd Action Hero: Yomiko
  • Nerds Are Sexy: And so is Yomiko-chan.
  • Nipple and Dimed: Lily under the shower in Read or Dream.
  • Not Quite Dead: Drake and the team think they took out Genjo Sanzo with a land-based torpedo, but Genjo manages to avoid getting blown to smithereens by using Goku's staff to elevate himself into the clouds.
  • Oh Crap: Otto gets a pretty big one when he realises just who he's going up against.
  • The Other Darrin: The dub for the TV series recast all the characters from the OVA, which was not too jarring for the most part, except that Yomiko went from having a very American accent to having a very British accent. Plus Jason Lee had been awesome as the forever-put-upon Drake.
  • Paper Fan of Doom: Anita uses this to discipline her older sister, Michelle.
  • Paper Master: The Trope Namer.
  • The Pollyanna: Yomiko never loses her bright disposition and her love of life and books. Even though most all of the villains she faces are psychotic and do not inspire much hope for the world.
  • The Power of Friendship
  • Power Trio: Yomiko, Nancy and Drake. Also, the Paper Sisters in ROD the TV.
  • Pre-Explosion Glow
  • Prophetic Names: "Yomiko" = "reading child"; "Readman" is obvious.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes
  • Reading Is Cool Aesop: Not really as overt as with most examples. However reading (insane ammounts) gets you superpowers!
  • Redemption Equals Death: Nancy repays Yomiko for her initial kindness by offing the I-Jin leader, but decides to stay in the rocket and die because she does not want him to die alone.
  • Rubber Face: Nenene to Yomiko and Michelle to herself.
  • Running Gag: Whenever things go bad, the American President wets his pants (three times in the OVA). Often with a close shot on his crotch, so you will know he is doing it. Word of God is that this was not intended to make fun of America as a whole, but rather to mock a certain President.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Joker does the Gendo pose in episode 3.
    • The opening credits as a whole are an obvious tribute to the James Bond opening sequences, complete with Lalo Schriffin inspired swing-band musical score and Sexy Silhouette shots. Yomiko even does her own silhouettes — and she makes them look good.
    • Anita gets hit on the head by a baseball and hallucinates/dreams that she dives through a poodle into a world after the setting of "The Wizard of Oz", lands with her ass on the witch, knocking her out and then setting out on the quest to liberate Oz (Maggie is the robot, that seeks a heart for courage, Michelle is the scarecrow, that wants a brain and Chihon is the Monkey King from Journey to the West and completely out of place).
  • Spot of Tea: Joker will not start work without it, Gentleman is also seen drinking it.
  • Steam Punk: The I-Jin, especially Lilienthal, and much of the British Library in general. They appear to use 19th-century era cell phones.
  • Storming the Castle
  • Stripperiffic: Nancy. She even comments sarcastically on it, as well as other aspects of her secret agent persona:
    Nancy: I never liked my code name anyway. "Miss Deep" sounds like a porn star.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The White House, in the opening.
  • Superhero (sort of)
  • Theme Music Power-Up: The main theme kicks in during particularly important battles, such as the aerial fight against Otto.
  • This Is Unforgivable: When someone as nice as Yomiko-chan says this to Gennai, you know he is pretty much fucked.
  • This Means War!: "As of now, we begin Operation Exterminate I-Jin Corps!"
  • Trap Is the Only Option: In OAV, one clear path into the I-Jin fortress suddenly becomes apparent. Joker instructs his team to take that path, stating that while it is obviously a trap, he has a few tricks of his own to play.
  • Turn the Other Cheek
  • Tykebomb: Anita and Junior.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The "good" Nancy is deemed expendable by Ikkyu after she has delivered Yomiko to his clutches, and he feels that she has become too soft as well. He has the "evil" Nancy kill her and drop her into the ocean. She gets better.
  • Vapor Wear: Nancy
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: In Read or Dream, when the carsick child writer Hisami fell accidentally fell on Anita and puked her in the face.
  • Who Would Want to Watch Us?: Invoked by Maggie, after a starving little girl they picked up from the streets chugged a bucketful of salt water as fuel and revealed herself as the judge of the world and judged the world to be destroyed due to human punk-assery.
  • You, Get Me Coffee: Well, tea, actually, as Joker asks Wendy at the end of episode 2. She is glad to do so, and despite everyone else being ready to go, Joker does not start the operation until Wendy serves the tea.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: Nancy complains to Ikkyu that he promised he would not kill Yomiko. He explains that while Yomiko does need to die, he will clone her and alter her personality to be more in tune with his goals, so From a Certain Point of View he was telling the truth.

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alternative title(s): Read Or Die; Read Or Die
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